Media Sector Unit 7 – Task 3

How is our media regulated and what legal and ethical constraints are placed on out media sector?

The media as a whole can be a very fun industry to work in but with everything you produce you have to go through very tough constraints so your content can be suitable for the public. This essay explores some of the constraints the media sector has on content producers.

The BBC is a publically funded corporation. The BBC gets all of its money from TV licences, which the public pays for each year. The cost of the licence fee is £145.50 for a colour television. Due to everyone having to pay the TV licence fee to watch television such as Freeview like BBC 1, there is some controversy with this because some people think that they shouldn’t be paying each year for channels like BBC 4, which some people don’t watch. The BBC has to have such a wide variety programmes and channels as everyone pays for the licence fee so they have to cater for everyone’s likes and dislikes so they have to have channels like BBC 4. This doesn’t just go for television as well there is over 59 BBC radio stations, because there’s is so much diversity in music they have to cater for everyone’s likes.

Companies such as channel 4 and ITV are commercial broadcasters. This means that they are funded by advertisements in commercial brakes usually every 15 minutes every hour. Because commercial broadcasters solely reliant on how many viewers they have to bring in money from advertisements they have to be populists so they have to cater what the public wants.     Which ever programme will pull in the most viewers they will air regardless. This means that the commercial broadcasters won’t hardly ever produce content that will appeal to niche viewers that wouldn’t pull in that many viewers.

Regardless of the type of broadcaster, commercial or public they have to follow a set amount of rules from regulatory body’s within the UK. The regulatory bodies are all set in place to place to protect the public from broadcasters content. Not in a physical way but in ways that may offend the public in any way. For example the PCC (press complaints commission) 
deals with complaints about editorial content for newspaper and magazines or RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) was set up in 1992 to align, design and operate a single audience measurement system for the UK radio industry serving both the BBC and licensed commercial stations. These are just a few examples on what regulators we have in the English broadcast industry and what they do. Each of them all have there own individual set code that broadcasters have to follow.

Freedom of speech is the belief that one can express there own opinions without the involvement of the government. Within the media sector we would want to believe that we do have free speech but do we really? With all of the regulatory bodies with laws such as broadcasters can’t just broadcast one major religion and that many different views has to be opinionated to remove the opinions of extremists. News reports have to be careful with what content they have within the report as people may get offended, this brings me on to the point that news broadcasters have to be careful with what they produce because they know if they become offensive to one group it could lead to loss in sales as that’s singleing out one demographics which could potentially lead to the loss of more things as the demographics they singled out in the first place tells other demographics that stop buying that paper to.

Broadcasters have to find out the fine line between content that’s suitable for public viewing and content that may offend the public. They have to be careful about what they post or say because what the do may get them in trouble. A broadcaster cant voice just one opinion, if a customer complains about company, broadcasters would have to get a representative from that company to voice their opinions because the broadcasters can get sued for bad representation.

The ofcom code, is a code that all broadcasters in the uk try to follow. It falls under many different categories that are meant to protect certain groups of people these categories include…

  • Crime- In any program reconstructions of crime must be safe and cannot in any way show how to commit the crime.
  • Protecting the under 18’s- Material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of people under eighteen must not be broadcast.
  • Religion- Dealt with reasonable and shouldn’t be used to recruit members and followers. They can’t broadcast one religion. Many different views must be represented to prevent the voices of extremists
  • Due impartiality- To not favor one side, they have to show all political views  such as the BNP. All  parties must have equal time to broadcast their views.
  • Fairness- to treat people fairly by both contributors getting fair time. The contributors must have the right to reply.
  • Privacy- Enter home without consent where people must sign papers if they are recording there. Journalists aren’t allowed to use methods that would invade people’s privacy such as hacking into phones.

Some broadcasters even have their own broadcast code they follow like the bbc which has the bbc producer guidelines. Which is a set amount of rules the bbc uses to ensure their content is good in the publics eyes. There first rule above all else is “Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.” they follow on to say that they are here to serve the public and that means all of the public thats why the bbc has channels such as bbc because it serves a niche audience. The means BBC is a self regulatory body.

Reporters have to be careful with what they say in whatever they decide to report about as they don’t want to affect the liability of that person. the liability is when someone publishes false statement’s that is damaging to a person’s reputation. They also have to be careful about defaming someone with slander, slander being making false information about someone and defaming being destroying the reputation of someone. They have to respect the laws that are placed and not to be in contempt of the law, meaning they have to respect them and not ignore them.

The government keeps a tight grasp on the media creating such news as the official secrets act where people aren’t allowed discuss the ongoings of war through the media the most notable was brian Hanrahan when he wasn’t allowed say if any of the fighter aeroplanes were ok or not, so all he said was he counted them all out and counted them back in. This showed us that reporters have to always be creative in how they report there news, there might be a loophole you can always take advantage off.

When Chris Blakemore came to see us and give us a talk about the BBC news room he told us about duty lawyers. These people are the lawyers that work for the BBC and take care of all the BBC problems. He showed us that the BBC news website constantly updates to show news from a local area. This shows us that the BBC has tons of correspondents from around birmingham.

Tabloids are the biggest offenders, normally of the codes set by regulatory bodies. They try and use the most shocking techniques to get the best sales. In 2013 the most complained about newspaper the daily male taking in 36% of the total complaints given to the PCC. News of the world was one of the most popularists newspapers a few years back but when the public found out that they use phone hacking techniques to acquire news. The most famous case being the Milly Dowler case where news of the world hacked a missing girls phone, deleting all of the recorded messages making the family believe she was still alive. The Leveson Enquiry was an inquiry set up by the government to follow the ethical practice of newspapers following the news of the world scandal. It showed us the relationship between the public and the press looking into if any other newspapers have been taking part in illegal activity.



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